Friday, May 15, 2009

Why I Think Retail Sales Are Bottoming

The latest retail sales news was followed by a fairly bearish commentary. However, I disagree with this sentiment for the following reasons.

First, here is the chart of retail sales from econoday which I posted in my write-up

Notice the month to month declines were extremely sharp at the end of last year but have slowed since. This tells me the general trend has changed. Also consider the following charts from the latest personal income and expenditures report from the BEA

Durable goods purchases dropped hard in 4Q08, rose at the beginning of '09 but have moved lower. But the severity of the move is moderate.
Non-durable purchases are clustering right around the $2.320 trillion level.

In other words, the total purchases of "stuff" is moderating.

And finally there are these two charts from

People are feeling better which means they will be more inclined to spend money.

Let me make clear: I don't think we're going to have a gangbusters, consumer led recovery. The US consumer still faces a weak job market, massive debt and a big destruction in his wealth over the last few years. This is not an environment where people will go out and spend. However, I do think that the overall trend of durable, non-durable and retail sales numbers indicates the decline is moderating and we will see a clear bottom over the next 4-6 month.s